TV and box office hits, like the Star Wars franchise, flushed a record £7.7bn into the UK economy’s coffers last year, representing an 80 per cent surge from the revenue generated by the industry five years earlier.
Official government data published on Thursday shows that production alone, which involves the preparation and shooting of films and TV programmes, contributed more than £2.5bn to the economy in 2016.
Distribution, which includes licensing films and television programmes and managing rights, contributed more than £3.5bn – almost three times as much as it did in 2008.
Employment in the industry is also rising, providing a further fillip to the economy. In 2016 almost 60,000 people were working in the UK film industry – a figure which has been on the rise since 2013. The most notable increase in employment numbers has been in the production sector.
The government data showed that, between 2008 and 2017, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, from 2015, was the highest grossing UK-made film at box offices across Ireland and the UK, at £123.2m. That was followed by 2012’s Bond movie Skyfall, at £103.2m, and 2015’s Spectre, at £95.2m.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that “creative industries tax reliefs”, introduced initially for film in 2007 and later expanded to support high-end TV, video games, animation and children’s programmes, appear to have played a significant role in attracting big-budget productions to the UK.
Under the relief programme, film production companies can claim a cash rebate of up to 25 per cent of the money they spend making the film in the UK, up to a maximum of 80 per cent of the film’s core expenditure.
The ONS said that for a film to qualify as British for tax purposes, it either has to pass cultural test, based on how much of the story, setting, production and crew are British or from the European Economic Area, or it must be an official co-production from a country which has a reciprocal agreement with the UK or through the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production.
It said that in the last decade the British Film Institute (BFI) has certified almost 2,000 films in this way, including many box office hits.